Well, kind of. You see, I'm scheduled to give a public lecture at the Japan-America Society of Fukuoka in precisely a month. As you can see from their list of officers, the JASF is made up of Fukuoka VIPs--the kind of audience a lowly English professor hardly ever gets a chance to address. And if the talk goes well, I get to do others on topics quite dear to my heart.
Unfortunately, the first talk is supposed to be the kind of horse-race-handicapping-meets-crystal-ball-political-forecasting deal that I have neither the expertise nor the inclination to deliver--how will the recent electoral victories for Democrats affect U.S. foreign policies in East Asia? I mean, I have some snappy opinions to trot out, but no considered judgments, at least by the end of the day when the draft is due to my translator. Did I mention that I'll be reading a sentence, pausing for the translation, then reading the next sentence? Yup. So on top of boring academic anxieties about stepping outside one's area of expertise, I also have the quite new ones (to me) of speaking to a non-academic audience in their second or third language on a topic they're far more likely to be plugged-in on than little ol' me.
The bottom line is, I have to find a way to make this talk fun for me and interesting to them. Impersonating a political scientist, much less a pundit, is out. So, what is to be done?
Fortunately, the JASF Secretary-General is a smart guy and he threw me a bone I am going to chew happily on for the first several minutes of the talk and in fact use to structure the whole shebang.
This gem will be featured in the invitation to the lecture going out to all JASF members, so everyone who attends will have seen it. "Reading" it will allow me to steer the lecture to areas I actually do have some expertise on and real interest in talking about: the analysis of visual images and narratives; the politics of science fiction and film; debates over the "imperial presidency" and narratives of American imperialism from manifest destiny to the American Century; the history of the U.S. in Asia and significant changes since the 1970s. It's not like I'm going to save all the "inside politics" stuff for the Q&A, but I'm going to try to frame it in a way that makes it palatable to me and hopefully informative and provocative for my audience. The real title that I'm working from is "The End of the American Century in Asia," but "Return of the Democrats" is what it'll be known as in Fukuoka.
So I'll close with a bleg: What are your responses to this image? How do you read it? How would you link it to U.S. foreign policy in East Asia? What should I be reading in the next month to prepare for the Q&A? (I just found out it's been extended to a 2-hour session, so I might have to be ready for over an hour's worth of questions, although that's really less than half an hour, given the need for on-the-fly translation.)
No, I'll close with an apology instead: sorry to be accosting you with this but I can't get to writing about Japanese kids' anime, American Dreamz, and Miyazaki until I finish my grading. Looking forward to fun posts from the Mostly Harmless crew while I'm out!